Successor to the typewriter, the word processor gives office staff members the opportunity to prepare correspondence and reports that have a highly professional appearance, with varied font styles, sizes, and even colors. Form letters can be personalized with the recipient’s name and other specifics that increase the probability of it being read rather than discarded. Spelling errors and incorrect grammar are minimized as software becomes increasingly user-friendly and responsive to human frailties. The word processor has also replaced the filing cabinet, with compact discs superceding manila folders as the place to store client and employee records. When linked to an office e-mail system, the word processor can send simultaneous and paperless memos or copies to a number of people in different offices, buildings, and cities. Chapter 24 deals with the use of the word processor in business communications.
With the capability of software programs to accomplish mathematical functions, prepare spreadsheets, and convert numerical data to bar graphs, pie charts, and other graphic interpretations, the office computer can fill many additional roles. Computers are commonly used to track inventory, accounts receivable and payable, prepare estimates, billings, and paychecks, maintain time records, and prepare tax reports and other financial statements.
Computer technology allows garden centers and nurseries to update their inventories when plants and other materials are purchased. One scan by a computerized register generates a printed receipt for the customer and simultaneously deducts the item from the inventory.
Landscapers are able to quantify materials from designs and convert the data into precise bids in a fraction of the time required by conventional measuring and counting methods. Last minute changes to design specifications can be quickly input and the bid updated. Less time is required for calculations that in the past were time-consuming, tedious, and subject to human error. At the same time, the accuracy of the calculations has probably improved, since the computer’s insistence on certain data input has compelled companies to keep close track of labor hours, material costs, overhead costs, and equipment usage. Early software estimating and inventory programs were directed at a generic business market. More recently, a number of specialized programs have reached the market that specifically target the nursery, landscape, lawn care, irrigation, or florist companies. They range in sophistication and in their usefulness to the user. It seems to be generally agreed by industry practitioners that the best software is that which is sufficiently complex to meet their needs and which can be customized to fit their individual business. They do not want to modify the business to conform to inflexible software. In the short span of time that the green industry has been using commercially developed estimating, inventory, and other office practice software, numerous products have fallen in and out of favor. There are two reasons that most companies change from one program to another. Either they find a new program that is a better fit with the
figure 26-1. A hand-held stylus is used to select commands and symbols on a digitizer or menu tablet. (Delmar/Cengage Learning. Photo by Jack Ingels.)
way they do business, or they outgrow the capabilities of their current software to track the financial activity of their expanding business. One of the most successful niches developed by enterprising software companies has been the creation of specific software for specific companies, rather than attempting to customize an existing program for a buyer.
Input devices for numerical calculation programs include a keyboard, a scanner, and a digitizer (Figure 26-1). The digitizer permits direct measurement of lengths, areas, volumes, and perimeters from drawings, so it is essential for the conversion of drawn data to numerical equivalents. The output device for numerical calculations is usually a printer.